Hilarious Guest - "a spirited filly"
With the running of the "Hilarious Guest" three-year-old Fillies Classic at Addington this Friday it seems only right to recall the record-breaking feats of the star filly 40 years ago .
In her day Hilarious Guest was a real presence on the track. In 1982 she was New Zealand 3YO Pacer of the Year, after winning 10 races and setting four New Zealand records.
She also became the first filly for 19 years to win the NZ Derby and joined an elite group of fillies to qualify for the New Zealand Cup at three
The key figure behind Hilarious Guest was Canterbury breeder-trainer Maurice Vermeulen. He got involved in the sport in the 1960s after coming to New Zealand from Holland in his late teens. Together with business partner John Osborne they traded as Rangiora Raceway Farm.
In the late 1970s they purchased Hilarious Guest's mum, New Guest for $5000 and after just two starts she was sent to Victoria to be served by high class American imports Kentucky and Hilarious Way. She returned to NZ with a yearling filly by Kentucky and a filly foal at foot by Hilarious Way.
Vermeulen and Osborne tossed a coin to see who would get first choice and Vermeulen took the Hilarious Way foal. Vermeulen gifted shares in horses to each of his three children and it was Karina Vermeulen who got Hilarious Guest.
"We all had a small interest and any stakes would go into our savings accounts."
Hilarious Guest's first win came at start number three at Hutt Park. She went on to win six times in 11 starts including the Sapling Stakes at Ashburton in 3:12.5, a New Zealand record for a 2YO Filly over 2400m.
"She was a very spirited filly and she had to be worked individually," recalls Karina Vermeulen, "she definitely took a little time to develop into herself but showed promise at an early age, other horsemen implied she wouldn't make a two-year-old but dad always did things his way."
Hilarious Guest also won the New Zealand Juvenile Championship, a mobile 2200m in another record for a filly (2:51.6).
The country's best two-year-old became the country's best three-year-old with a record in 1982 of ten wins from 18 starts.
Among her victories was the New Zealand Derby at Addington. She speared to the lead for Peter Jones with her nearest rival being Portfolio, a tough son of Noodlum trained and driven by Peter's father Derek. It was a mighty battle with Hilarious Guest prevailing by a head, having paced the 2600m in 3:20.9, one tenth of a second inside Noodlum's previous record.
"I remember chewing my fingernails off throughout that Derby," says Karina, "she was more of a stayer than a sprinter and that win was very special."
She became the first filly to win the Derby since Bellajily in 1963. In the same year she also won the Great Northern - New Zealand Oaks double and the Messenger. In the NZ Oaks she cruised home over the 2600m in a record 3:20.1 to win by two lengths over Rain Girl.
In 1982 Hilarious Guest was the only three-year-old in the Cup. Driven by Jack Smolenski, she finished seventh. Bonnie's Chance and Armalight quinellaed the Cup for the second year running , with Bonnie's Chance winning and reversing the result 12 months earlier. In the 1984 New Zealand Cup Hilarious Guest was sixth.
After finishing racing as a six-year-old in 1985 she was a prolific-producing broodmare. Among her better performing progeny were Goodtime Guest who had eight wins from 20 starts, and Hilarious Leigh (3 wins from 5 starts).
Hilarious Guest died in 2008 (she was 30), with a career record of 21 wins from 73 starts.
The winner of Friday's edition of the Hilarious Guest is guaranteed a start in the NZ Pacing Oaks to be held at Addington on Grand Prix day on December 4.